Stove's anti-darwinism

Philosophy 72 (279):133-136 (1997)
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Stove's article, 'So you think you are a Darwinian?'[ 1] was essentially an advertisement for his book, Darwinian Fairytales.[ 2] The central argument of the book is that Darwin's theory, in both Darwin's and recent sociobiological versions, asserts many things about the human and other species that are known to be false, but protects itself from refutation by its logical complexity. A great number of ad hoc devices, he claims, are used to protect the theory. If co operation is observed where the theory predicts competition, then competition is referred to the time of the cavemen, or is reinterpreted as competition between some hidden entities like genes or abstract entities like populations. In a characteristic sally, Stove writes of the sociobiologists' oscillation on the meaning of kin altruism: Any discussion of altruism with an inclusive fitness theorist is, in fact, exactly like dealing with a pair of balloons connected by a tube, one balloon being the belief that kin altruism is an illusion, the other being the belief that kin altruism is caused by shared genes. If a critic puts pressure on the illusion balloon - perhaps by ridiculing the selfish theory of human nature - air is forced into the causal balloon. There is then an increased production of earnest causal explanations of why we love our children, why hymenopteran workers look after their sisters, etc., etc. Then, if the critic puts pressure on the causal balloon - perhaps about the weakness of sibling altruism compared with parental, or the absence of sibling altruism in bacteria - then the illusion balloon is forced to expand. There will now be an increased production of cynical scurrilities about parents manipulating their babies for their own advantage, and vice versa, and in general, about the Hobbesian bad times that are had by all. In this way critical pressure, applied to the theory of inclusive fitness at one point, can always be easily absorbed at another point, and the theory as a whole is never endangered.[ 3] Now, it is uncontroversial to assert that Darwinism is a logically complex theory, and that its relation to empirical evidence is distant and multi faceted. One does not directly observe chance genetic variations leading to the development of new species, or even continuous variations in the fossil record, but must rely on subtle arguments to the best explanation, scaling up from varieties to species, and so on..
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